I Must Be Dead (Mckay Jaffe) is a Pheonix-based photographer who challenges conventional representations of identity through experimental portraiture. Rich with narrative and exploding with color, his works are consistently enrapturing and unsettling, in that they collide sensuality with horror, beauty with death. The faces of his bizarre models are intensely expressive, and usually obscured in some way, such as with paint, masks, and/or deep shadows. Breaching the line between fantasy and reality, his works are evocative yet alien, begging the question: “is this real?” Some of Jaffe’s work comes from the Burning Man festival, where he captures subjects befitting to his oeuvre: people actively inhabiting alternative identities and lifestyles.
On the I Must Be Dead Facebook page, Jaffe’s tongue-in-check biography reveals his counter-cultural approach to art and societal expectations. He claims that he has excelled in “unprofessional photography since 1845” and has won “5 Nobel peace prizes,” poking fun at conventional understandings of “success” and thereby marking his work as subversive. “Being human is a program,” Jaffe wrote to me, when I inquired about the social commentary present in his work. “You are designed to act and feel relative to the life you are given.”
For him, the “way out” of repressive structures is to test the possibilities of identity. Life is an evolving, experimental process; as Jaffe writes, “[You must] learn to learn, learn to grow, learn to accept, learn to see things from the other side, learn to laugh, learn to love, learn to live your life.” His photographic ventures into the realms of beauty, intensity, and absurdity are very much part of a learning process — one in which the limits of selfhood are explored in the development of an open self-understanding. (Via Beautiful.Bizarre)